The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time has been an awards magnet and one can see why in this touring production of the National Theatre show that hit Oxford on 14 July and stays until 18 July before pushing on. The mis-en-scène is dazzling and apt, Bunny Christie’s set design and Paula Constable’s evocative lighting providing a real reflection of some of the concerns of the show and of the original novel by Mark Haddon upon which it is based. The use of video and movement is simply brilliant; and the music of Adrian Sutton is perfect in its mood creation and support for the story. It’s a wonderful mono-set; and the scene changes and time changes are presented with complete clarity. It looks beautiful all the time. Full praise to Marianne Elliott for the seamless way all of the elements and performances have been blended.
This tale told from the viewpoint of a teenager with Aspergers in the Rain Man/Idiot Savant mould is interesting in itself and this play probably provokes fresh insights and thoughts for a lot of people. Above all, the staging and acting are not only engaging but completely coherent, and ultimately emotionally responsive to the story.
Joshua Jenkins is simply superb as Christopher Boone, the protagonist (I have not seen Chris Ashby who shares the role but suspect he must be just as good; only the best could undertake such a demanding part). Jenkins consistently conveys through speech patterns and body language the character who is brilliant at maths and logic but trapped in an inner prison on the autism scale. He is obviously not 15 any more but makes one suspend disbelief throughout and simply see him as young Christopher. His physicality is very impressive; as is his presentation of the fears, angers and blank incoherencies of his character. He’s onstage virtually non-stop and gives a performance that is impressive throughout, the choreography of which is both illuminating and fascinating to watch. He deserved his standing ovation at the end, as does the entire cast of 14; and then his second ovation for his surprise post curtain-call routine that you should be sure not to miss.
The entire cast deserves praise for the slickness, inventiveness and dynamism of its work with some wonderfully winning and dazzling switches of part by everyone throughout. Geraldine Alexander, Stuart Laing, Clare Perkins and Gina Isaac have the standout parts.
The play is excellently conceived and a real tribute to its initial source. It is highly professional in its presentation and the way it fillets the book to present the essence of Mark Haddon’s concerns and approach. I had read the book so I didn’t find the play particularly profound or surprising; but I did think it was a strong and well-conceived evening of theatre, extremely faithful to its source; and so I recommend it especially if you haven’t read the novel. I also recommend the very informative programme which is full of material you will want to read after seeing the play.